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2017: The Year in Alumni Books

A roundup of 15 great reads in time for holiday gift-giving

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FICTION

romance

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life (Flatiron Books)

Sharon Pywell (GRS’89)

Neave, the protagonist in Pywell’s latest book, reads the steamy romance novel The Pirate Lover as an escape from her closed-minded Massachusetts town and from living in the shadow of her glamorous older sister, Lilly. Year after year, she returns to the book to avoid life’s hardships, but when Lilly goes missing, Neave must finally learn to contend with the real world. Pywell’s command over her characters’ nuanced voices shines as she alternates chapters from many perspectives—Neave’s, Lilly’s, and even that of their dog, Mr. Boppit. And of course, the reader is treated to excerpts from The Pirate Lover as the parallels between the romance and Neave’s own life unfold.

  chemistry

Chemistry (Knopf)

Weike Wang (GRS’16)

Wang, who enrolled in BU’s MFA program during her third year of a doctoral program in cancer epidemiology, draws from real life in her debut novel about a chemistry PhD dropout searching for an existence outside academia. The double meaning of the title is clear from the outset, when a marriage proposal from her boyfriend and her dissatisfaction with her lab project catalyzes the protagonist’s existential crisis.

  Inevitable-and-Only

Inevitable and Only (Boyds Mills Press)

Lisa Rosinsky (GRS’17)

In Rosinsky’s YA debut, 15-year-old Cadie learns that she has a half-sister, Elizabeth, who is only a few months older than her. When Elizabeth moves in, Cadie’s close relationship with their father is strained, and she is forced to reexamine the meaning of family. With a knack for capturing teenage voices, Rosinsky writes poignantly about Cadie’s struggle to adjust and to forgive.

  frauline

Fräulein M. (Gallery Books)

Caroline Woods (GRS’08, SED’09)

In 1931, two inseparable sisters who grew up in a Catholic orphanage are cast from the shelter into the turbulent environment of Weimar Berlin and embark on different paths. Spirited, feisty Berni becomes a cigarette girl, navigating the world of cabarets and dance halls, while shy Grete becomes a maid to a Nazi family, where she forms a complicated relationship with the family’s son. Nearly four decades later, a woman in South Carolina sets out to learn about her mother’s childhood in Germany. Connecting these two narratives, Woods creates a cast of lively, captivating characters and an engrossing story that will transport readers back in time.

  The-River-at-Night

The River at Night (Gallery Books/Scout Press)

Erica Ferencik (GRS’89)

Four women embark on an ill-fated rafting trip in the remote woods of Maine, led by an attractive, impetuous 20-year-old guide, in this campy and engrossing page-turner. Friendships are tested as one of them cavorts with the young guide, and when disaster strikes on the raging river, the women must figure out how to survive in the unforgiving wilderness. Ferencik’s flair for writing movie-like, nail-biting action makes the book hard to put down.


 

NONFICTION

rocco

Rocco’s Healthy & Delicious (Harper Wave)

Rocco DiSpirito (SHA’90)

From a raw curry ragout with diced zucchini to a key lime mousse with chocolate sauce, chef DiSpirito’s newest cookbook features more than 200 plant-based recipes (meat and seafood do make occasional appearances) that will appeal to even the pickiest eaters. The beautifully photographed book is a thorough guide to following an organic and mostly plant-based diet, limiting meat consumption, and eliminating dairy—all on an affordable budget.

  waitingforthepunch

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live By from the WTF Podcast (Flatiron Books)

Marc Maron (CAS’86) and Brendon McDonald

Maron’s latest book compiles words of wisdom into 11 tidy chapters, organized by themes, among them childhood, sexuality, addiction, and identity. He opens each chapter with thoughtful, conversational ruminations on the theme’s significance in his life and follows those with excerpts from the celebrity interviews he’s done over the years on his WTF podcast. RuPaul speaks about his childhood; Barack Obama discusses mistakes he’s made; Rob Reiner ponders friendships and relationships. The book captures the podcast’s intimate, conversational style, drawing readers into these celebrities’ surprisingly relatable stories.

  Betaball--How-Silicon-Valley-and-Science-Built-One-of-the-Greatest-Basketball-Teams-in-History

Betaball: How Silicon Valley and Science Built One of the Greatest Basketball Teams in History (Atria Books)

Erik Malinowski (COM’02)

In this compelling look at the Golden State Warriors franchise overhaul, Bay Area sports reporter Malinowski details the intersection of business, science, and technology behind the team’s dramatic turnaround. Once the cellar dwellers of the NBA, the Warriors won the 2015 and 2017 NBA championship, thanks in part to an ownership group helmed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Hollywood producer Peter Gruber. They led the franchise through a series of experimental changes that aligned its operation with that of a tech company working in beta mode (the tech industry term for a development stage). The shift in management style wasn’t an overnight cure for the franchise’s woes, and Malinowski pays as much attention to the team’s stumbles as to its big strides. It would take five years until the elements—such as hiring first-time coach Steve Kerr and implementing new data-capturing technologies—aligned to produce a championship-winning team.

  bleakerstreet

Bleaker House (Doubleday)

Nell Stevens (GRS’13)

With help from the Creative Writing Program’s Global Fellowship Program, a grant that allows graduates a stay of up to three months abroad, Stevens traveled to sparsely populated Bleaker Island in the Falklands—land of penguins and perpetual rain—rather than one of the tropical locales or cosmopolitan cities preferred by her classmates. There, she believed, the solitude would help her work on the novel she’d always wanted to write. And although the manuscript she wrote on Bleaker Island was never published, the trip was the impetus for her debut book. Stevens writes wryly about her time on the island, plunging introspectively into her neuroses concerning the novel she is trying to write and her dwindling food supply (she had to bring most of it with her in a suitcase). Anyone who has aspired to write a novel will empathize with Stevens’ passion and desperation as she becomes a prisoner of this manuscript, trudging through its sluggish plot and struggling to free herself.

  obama

Obama: An Intimate Portrait (Little, Brown and Company)

Pete Souza (COM’76)

Souza, Barack Obama’s chief official White House photographer for all eight years of his presidency, offers an intimate look at moments big and small in this coffee-table book. With more than 300 beautifully rendered, iconic photos—including the famous 2011 situation room photo—the book also has behind-the-scenes commentary from Souza that imbues still more color into the images.

  Ahopemorepowerful

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea (Flatiron Books)

Melissa Fleming (COM’95)

Fleming, head of communications for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), tells the real-life story of Doaa Al Zamel, a Syrian refugee who fled her war-torn homeland at age 17. Two years later, in September 2014, Doaa’s fiancé used his life savings to secure them two spaces on a smugglers’ boat bound for Europe, but four days into the trip, the ship capsized. Doaa survived; her fiancé did not. Fleming’s gripping account of Doaa’s journey is filled with poignant lessons on resilience and courage. The UNHCR resettled Doaa in Sweden, where she now lives, and Fleming’s book has drawn the attention of filmmakers Steven Spielberg (Hon.’09) and J. J. Abrams, who are collaborating to make it into a movie.

  artofpoetry

The Education of a Young Poet (Counterpoint)

David Biespiel (CAS’86)

In this rich memoir, poet Biespiel traces his personal literacy narrative, reflecting on his ancestors’ lives, his childhood in Texas, and his college years in Boston and their effects on his development as a writer. Fun anecdotes—having a conversation with a not-yet-famous Tracy Chapman while riding the T to a Mondale rally on Boston Common, drinking beer and discussing poetry with classmate Marc Maron (CAS’86) at the Dugout—add to the book.

  thekillermoon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann (GRS’94)

One of the FBI’s first major homicide investigations was of the mysterious murders of members of Osage Nation, a Native American tribe, in the 1920s. Grann’s comprehensive look at the case traces the unfair treatment of the tribe that led to the Osage moving to what turned out to be an oil-rich parcel of land in Oklahoma. When they leased the land to prospectors, they reaped the monetary benefits. But then, targeted for their wealth, tribe members started dying mysteriously. Grann, a staff writer at The New Yorker, brings to life the story of a young J. Edgar Hoover’s investigation of this gruesome, oft-forgotten part of history, and his struggle to establish the relatively new FBI, in this real account that reads like a gripping mystery novel. The book has been named one of the Top 20 Books of 2017 by Amazon.com editors.


 

POETRY

fairsun

Fair Sun (David R. Godine)

Susan Barba (GRS’12)

Broken into three connected parts, Barba’s poems consider a wide range of topics—language, culture, a grandfather’s recollection of the Armenian Genocide, death, and a person’s role in life. Although varied in subject and style, all of her poems are painterly, full of color and texture. Particularly beautiful is the third section of poems, where Barba conveys the changing seasons and times in New England with subtle but distinctive imagery; one poem expresses an Edward Hopper-esque view of Boston at night.

  darkhorses

My Dark Horses (Liverpool University Press)

Jodie Hollander (GRS’02)

In her debut poetry collection, Hollander explores her complicated family dynamics, particularly her relationship with her mother, whose cancer diagnosis and abusive partners cause constant strain. The poems span years, but are not chronological, giving the collection a frenetic urgency.

3 Comments

3 Comments on 2017: The Year in Alumni Books

  • Matthew Packard on 12.18.2017 at 11:26 am

    “A Taste of Broadway” by Jennifer Packard

    I’m adding to this list “A Taste of Broadway” by Jennifer Packard. While Jennifer isn’t yet officially an alum, she will be next year. Jennifer is currently enrolled in BU MET’s Masters of Gastronomy program.

    Here is the description:

    “Beyond being just fuel for the body, food carries symbolic importance used to define individuals, situations, and places, making it an ideal communication tool. In musical theater, food can be used as a shortcut to tell the audience more about a setting, character, or situation. Because everyone relates to eating, food can also be used to evoke empathy, amusement, or shock from the audience. In some cases, food is central to show’s plot. This book looks at popular musical theater shows to examine which foods are used, how they are used, why they are important, and how the food or usage relates to the broader world. Included are recipes for many of the foods that are significant in the shows discussed.”

    Below is a link to the book on Amazon. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to add the cover photo to this post.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1442267313/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I26X0RT0GVF4UT&colid=1M1XKWZGD9XO0&psc=0

  • Barbara Davis on 01.10.2018 at 6:14 pm

    My book “CRAPS & THE SHOWGIRL” was published August 2017. I notified COM yet have heard nothing. I graduated September 983, MS Public Relations. Any chance of getting on the above list? Or some recognition? Check Amazon.com

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